How healthcare can help human trafficking victims — 7 tips from The Joint Commission

The Joint Commission issued a safety advisory to help healthcare professionals identify victims of human trafficking, the fastest growing criminal industry in the world.

Here are seven takeaways:

1. Recognize the signs of human trafficking. Victims may appear fearful, avoid eye contact, refuse to cooperate with an exam or show signs of malnourishment, repeated exposure to harmful chemicals and physical and/or sexual abuse.

2. Gain permission and consent from adult victims before disclosing their information to others, including service providers. Providers are legally required to contact Child Protective Services if the victim is a minor.

3. If human trafficking is suspected, remain nonjudgmental, use plain language, try to interview the patient privately and use screening questions such as these:

  • Where do you sleep and eat?
  • Have you been threatened if you try to leave?
  • Have you been physically harmed in any way?

4. If there is immediate, life-threatening danger, follow institutional policies for reporting to law enforcement.

5. If a patient discloses being trafficked, provide the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline number. Help patients memorize it if it's dangerous to keep in their possession. Include safety planning in the discharge planning process.

6. Accurately document the patient's injuries and treatment. Information about victims can be used against them in a court proceeding, so avoid paraphrasing or summarizing.

7. Healthcare organizations can prepare staff to help victims by providing professional interpreters; incorporating social, work, home history and domestic violence screening questions into routine intake; and training frontline staff on identifying, referring and reporting human trafficking victims.

The full advisory can be found here.

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